Winners and Losers

Worship on the Lord’s Day
10:00 am     2023
Online & Onsite (Mixed Presence) Gathering as a Worshipping Community
Led by the Rev Brad Childs
Music director: Binu Kapadia     Vocalist: Lynn Vaughan
Elder: Gina Kottke

We gather to worship God

Music prelude

L: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
P: and also with you.

Lighting of the Christ candle
Welcome and announcements
Silent preparation for worship

Call to Worship
L: To you, O God, we lift our hearts.
P: Listen to our voices and answer.
L: The Lord is good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love.
P God does wondrous things with grace and mercy.
L: So, let us glorify God’s holy name together!
P: We come to worship God in love and loyalty.

Opening praise: Come, now is the time to worship.

Prayers of approach and confession

Living God, we gather this morning to offer you our thanks and praise. We experience your loving presence in the beauty of Creation, in Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour, and in the Christian Community to which we belong. Thank you for revealing yourself to us and giving us an experience of your love and especially in the seemingly small things. As we reflect on your word and sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, teach us your wisdom and equip us to share your love with all people in word and in deed.

Merciful God, we have experienced your presence in the wonder of Creation, and yet we fail to protect the environment and continue to pollute the earth, soil and waters you have made.

We have experienced your presence in the person of Jesus Christ, and yet we ignore his difficult demands on our lives and follow our own ways instead of his sacrificial way of love. We have experienced your presence in the Christian Community, and yet we look to our own needs instead of the needs of others and hoard our resources rather than share them freely with those in need.

We are not bad,. We are generally well meaning. But we do error. Often we just take the easy way or don’t think hard enough about the things we do or don’t do.

Forgive us, loving God, when we go the wrong way, through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

Response: We come to ask your forgiveness, O God

Assurance of God’s forgiveness

You are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly and the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. And be thankful. In Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.

Recognition of this year’s Grade 12 Graduates: Wesley Childs, Heather McCubbin, Kimi Ray Moncada, Kariesa Smuts, and Marcus Thornborough.

We listen for the voice of God

Children’s time

Gradual: Jesus, we are gathered (514)

Story: Well, guys, we’re going to take a moment and I’m going to ask for you guys to fold your hands and bow your heads and to pray with me for the high school graduates. And I want you to think about the fact that someday you’re gonna stand up here while a bunch of other kids are down there praying for you just like this, okay?

Prayer: Lord, we thank You that you have helped young people make it to the point of graduation. We give You the glory for their success thus far and ask that You will continue to allow them to prosper as the next chapter of life begins.

Grant success both in the professional arena and in family life and a faith that searches and stretches and continues to inform. Allow there to be a proper balance between building a career and having a meaningful personal and spiritual life.

Most importantly, let their successes be earned in such a way that will
be pleasing in Your eyes. Amen.

Recognition and Appreciation for Fionna McCrostie

Fiona is moving on. And so we want to thank her for her service. It was a difficult couple of years. And she stuck with it and did what was asked of her. And she was an important member of the Christian Ed committee. So again, On behalf of Session and Congregation we want to recognize and appreciate what you have done..

Transition music

Announcement for those who know of any graduates

There are some scholarship programs if you are studying theology or medicine at the First Presbyterian Church in Regina where Brad used to be the minister with about $200,000 in it and they’re not allowed to use it except for this so sometimes they actually have trouble giving it away. You might consider checking that out. In fact, come talk to Brad.

Song: You, Lord, are both lamb and shepherd (356)

Today’s Message

Scripture readings: Genesis 21:8-21; Romans 6:1b-11

Response: Glory to the Father

Message: “Winners” and “Losers”

We live in a culture dominated by the idea of winning.  The patron saint of NFL football, Vince Lombardi, once said:  “Winning isn’t the best thing, it’s the only thing.”  We accept that as truth as if it were from the lips of our Lord Himself.  We have to win at our sports, win at our business, win in our relationships, and even win in our religion.  We are a people obsessed with the idea of winning. So we see mottoes like:

“Second place is first loser.”

“Win at all costs.”

“Life is like a dog-sled team.  If you’re not in the front the view never changes.”

Our culture has become so obsessed with winning that we idolize athletes even if they play dirty, or take drugs to enhance their performance, live highly immoral lives, and who engage in the now sacred art of trash talking.  Cities and counties are often asked to mortgage their financial future for the sake of having a professional sports franchise all in the promise of enhancing their image and sense of well being.  Coaches can be at the top of the heap one year and at the bottom the next depending upon their won-loss record.  Go ask former or current coaches at major universities about our cultural obsession with winning. Their jobs depend on it.

This obsession with winning has affected our understanding not just of sports or life in general but also faith. We exalt those who have had transforming experiences wherein their lives or people who were miraculously turned-around.  Youth leaders at large churches always seem to be ex-gang members covered in tattoos with crazy conversion stories to match the number of piercings they have.

We revel in the miraculous tales of how God took us from worst to first.  Sadly when I meet ministers from other churches one of the first questions they always ask me is “how many members does your congregation have” as if the higher the digit the better the score. Everything’s a competition and we love the winners.

But what about the losers?  What about those who never come out on top?  What about those who will never win the big game, who never received the big promotion, who never had the great and awe-inspiring experience from on high?  Does God care about the losers?  Everyone that’s ever been to Sunday school knows about the great King David, or Noah. But does God only care about winners?

Ishmael is the son of Hagar and Abraham.  Hagar is Sarah’s slave obtained from the Pharaoh during their brief sojourn there. Jewish tradition generally speaks well of her and says that Hagar was very beautiful: tall, elegant with the broad shoulders and “the narrow hips of Egyptians” (which I guess was a plus in the pre-nomadic Israelite history – Or if that’s your thing, I guess).

At this point Sarah decided that since she was barren and God promised them children, it must not be with her that this would take place. With that she goes to her husband and suggests that Abraham should take Hagar for the purpose of assuring an heir. At the time this was basically the ancient version of insemination/surrogacy

It was intended that children could be conceived, adopted and to be rather blunt… it was also the only existing retirement plan. If you didn’t have children, you would eventually become incapable of work and eventually starve and die. It’s grim, but think about the commandment – Honour your father you’re your mother – SO THAT you might live LONG in the land I am giving you. This is not just a, “kids listen to your parents” this is also a, “if you don’t take care of your parents when they are declining, your kids wont take care of you either” king of thing.

But now Sarah is no longer happy about the arrangement. Sarah’s ingenious plan (that could never go wrong especially since no woman in the history of all womanhood has ever become the slightest bit jealous). I am sorry. That’s misogynistic. Don’t worry though I’ve added some abusive to men And apparently no man has even met a stupid idea he would try.

So now old Abraham (the big smarty pants), leaps at this decision like a brain dead oaf and voila, Hagar becomes pregnant. The baby will be called Ishmael.

Sarah’s plan has worked. But now she is also understandably very jealous of Hagar.

Specifically, Sarah thinks Hagar is a bit too cocky – and so Sarah goes and complains to Abraham.  Being a smart man (or a chicken) Abraham stays out of this fight and tells Sarah to do whatever she wishes with Hagar whose use as a surrogate is finished. So, Sarah makes life as miserable as she can for other woman (even though it was all her idea to begin with). She does this so much so that Hagar flees to the desert.  In the desert God comes to Hagar and tells her to return, promising that God would bless her son and make of him a great nation (the same promise God gave to Sarah about her not yet born son Isaac that she didn’t believe God would give her).

Hagar returns and for thirteen years Sarah watches as Hagar raises Ishmael.  For thirteen years she sees Abraham enjoy and revel in Ishmael as his son.  The furor and rage continue to boil.  No matter how miserable she tries to make Hagar’s life Sarah cannot get beyond the fact that Hagar has borne Abraham a son and she has not.  Can we imagine how that fact affected Sarah?  Can we comprehend her sense of worthlessness?  Can we see how she would have taken that out upon Hagar in as vindictive a manner as possible?

Then the miraculous happens: Sarah becomes pregnant.  At last God vindicates her!  When Isaac (he laughs or he makes me laugh) is born Sarah gives him his name because her anger is replaced by joy and laughter.  No more will she have to endure those snide looks from Hagar over her barrenness.  Sarah has borne a son—she is now worthy! However, all is not well in paradise.  When Isaac is about three Sarah’s anger comes back.

Ishmael – who is about 16 – and Isaac are playing together and evidently Ishmael laughs at Isaac in a condescending manner.  Sarah cannot stand it – she will not put up with this child of the slave being equal to her beloved Isaac, much less him mocking him.  Sarah demands that Abraham send Hagar and Ishmael away – much to the chagrin of Abraham.  He loves Ishmael and Hagar and does not want to lose them.  However, God comes to Abraham and reiterates the promise God made to Hagar concerning Ishmael.  So Hagar and Ishmael are sent into the wilderness, the desert, with a skin of water and a loaf of bread.

Soon they face death from dehydration and starvation.  Hagar places Ishmael under a bush because she cannot stand to watch him die.  However, God has not abandoned them but leads her to a well of water.  Ishmael then grows up in the wilderness under the care of his mother and becomes an expert hunter and marksman with a bow.  When he is older Hagar goes to Egypt and gets Ishmael an Egyptian wife.

Ishmael eventually has twelve sons who are later divided into twelve tribes – and yes, a great nation comes of them.  For Ishmael’s descendants are the the many Arab people’s, the largest non-Christian religious group on the face of the earth—about 1 billion by latest estimates.  The modern day Palestinians and many Arabs trace their lineage back to Ishmael.  God did indeed fulfill the covenant with Hagar and Ishmael just as God did with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Do we understand this text for what it is telling us?  Hagar and Ishmael were losers—they were not the chosen.  However, God blessed them just the same.  Though God had other plans for them than to be the ancestors of the Messiah God did not abandon them nor cast them away. Instead he cared for them.

One of the ways of reading the Bible is from the point of the loser, the underdog, the oppressed.  Time and again God takes the side of the oppressed, of the underdog.  In a society which gave almost all the property and rights to the first born time and again God chooses the second born as the mode of blessing.

In a few hundred years Israel, the descendants of Abraham through Isaac, would find themselves in slavery in Egypt.  God hears their cry and sends Moses to liberate them.  They have become the outcasts, the losers, but God does not abandon them.

Rachel is the second wife of Jacob but becomes the one through whom the lineage continues.

Jacob supplants his older brother Esau.

Joseph is a younger child of Rachel and Jacob.

Moses has an older brother, Aaron, but it is Moses whom God chooses.

Even the winners of the bible are losers. We think of the great King David. But David was the youngest of his brothers but through God’s anointing he becomes the King even to where his ragtag outlaw band is able to defeat the mighty army of Saul.

Solomon is not the first born of David’s sons either, but becomes the heir.

God, it seems, looks upon the last, the least, and the lost as the ones who are most in need of God’s blessing. God it seems likes the losers.

Jesus spent most of his time with the peasants, the anawim, which is Aramaic for the poor and homeless.  These were the ones to whom Jesus promised the kingdom of God, the meek and humble of heart, the powerless and disaffected who lived from hand to mouth and had little or no choice in life.  These, Jesus proclaimed, are the least of these—the ones who provide the opportunity for our service to the Christ.

So, is that it?  Is that who losers are: the poor, the poverty stricken who can do nothing about their plight?  Though this is what society says—our theology is quite a bit different.  Losers are those who fail, who do not achieve or live up to what they believe they should be and do.

According to the Bible we are all losers:  “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”   All of us fail at one time or another.  So, if we are all losers are there any winners?  Let me share a revelation from, of all places, the golf course to help us understand losing and winning.

Golf is a very unforgiving game when played according to the rules.  No mulligans, no do-overs, you have to play every shot as it is found – even your “foul balls” as we say. If it lands in the cabbage so be it. If you can’t find it – you take a penalty.

You can play the best that it is possible for you to play and not win because someone else played one shot better.  Unlike team sports where you can play bad and the team still wins in golf you are on your own – you can play good and still lose.

Professional golfer Jay Haas was asked about how he handled playing golf from a psychological perspective.  In answer he said that this was the toughest part of professional golf and that one had to set different standards for success.  Success comes not in winning every week, but in doing your best with what happens that week.  If you play your best and someone else plays better – you accept it and go on.  Another professional put it this way: “You must focus on the process and not the results.”  In other words: play your game, hit every shot as good as you can, and let the chips fall where they may.

This, I believe, is a much better understanding of winning and losing.  All of us have different gifts and abilities.  Some of us started low on the educational or economic ladder – others began much higher.  Someone once said of a certain American  President, “He was born on third base and thought he hit a home run.”   It seems to me that winning and losing should be determined not by where we finish – but by where we began and how far we rose during our lifetime.

Were we faithful to our Lord and our Lord’s church?

Were we faithful to our family and our responsibilities?

Did we do the best we could with what we had?

Did we try to help or hurt others along the way?

Did we use our gifts and resources primarily for personal gain or to help others?

Some of us this morning may feel like losers. We haven’t given our best, we’ve failed in being faithful, and we’ve even stepped on others along the way. Maybe you said you would do something and didn’t or forgot to do something or aren’t capable any more. Maybe your body is turning on you. Nobody is perfect. And nobody does right all the time. “For all have sinned”. You’re in good company.

I’m sad to tell you this but You are not a winner. No matter how many trophies you have or coins in the coffer, YOU HAVE MESSED SOMETHING UP – BIG TIME! Welcome to being human!

More importantly though, I’ve good news for you: God is in the business of using the losers.

Ted Turner, media mogul and former owner of CNN and famous anti-religion advocate and amazing environmental activist, once said “Christianity is a religion for losers.”

Well, Ted, I agree.

Ted wasn’t wrong…Christianity is a religion for losers – for if the standard is perfection (and God says it is) then we all are losers.

In fact, Jesus, by the world’s standards, was… a… loser!  And by the way his church was tiny – and one of them got him killed. He had 12 and lost one!

Moreover, when you find yourself nailed to a tree and crucified by the powers that be, it’s hard to call yourself a winner.

The Father, however, seems to have stepped in – and the rest is history. OR the turning point of history, perhaps.

The resurrection was God’s sign that our notions of winning and losing are all messed up.

As Paul put it:  “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”  Or, in the language of today, “While we were yet losers Christ won for us.”

God makes winners out of losers in the only game that counts – the game of eternal life.

As Jesus puts it “whoever loses their life for my sake and my kingdom will find it”.

Whoever gives up their life, their time, their prayers, their everything – for the kingdom – they will find a whole new kind of life!

God will have the final say – regardless of who wins the Grey Cup, the World Series, the Stanley Cup, whoever is the strongest and fastest and whatever else(ists). And through Jesus Christ we (the losers) will all be the winners. The last are first and the first are last. So thanks be to God and Amen.

Song: God of the sparrow, God of the whale (307)

We respond to serve God

Reflection on giving: We have been giving faithfully and are committed to  the ministry and mission that define Dayspring – using the ways described below. Thank you for your support of our shared vision and mission.

Prayer of gratitude and for others and ourselves

God, you are in our midst, renew us in your love. Living God, you have made your presence evident to us in Creation, in Christ, and in Christian Community. Be with us now, as we bring to you our prayers and concerns, and guide our thoughts and our desires, that they may conform to your will and your way. We pray for the church, that life among believers today may become more and more like the descriptions of the early church, with many opportunities to spend time together, to praise God, and to provide for the needs of everyone.

We pray for the earth from which we draw our health, strength and inspiration, and for all the living creatures in whose community we live. We pray for the wisdom and the will to care for and preserve the natural environment, and for the opportunity for many people to experience your presence through the wonder of your creation.

We pray for Camp Kannawin and the devoted staff and volunteers. We thank you for the camp committee and the Synod and for the funds each church brings to help children and young people experience Christian camping. And we pray for the programs and kids as they come together to worship, learn, challenge one another and grow.

We pray too for Christian camps across the country (Presbyterian and otherwise), that they may be equipped for good ministry this summer. We pray that God’s presence will be experienced by many children, youth and adults at camp this summer, and that many people will turn their hearts and their lives toward God in Jesus Christ.

We pray for all those who will be a part of Christian camping this summer, that they may be filled with the energy, enthusiasm, courage and boldness to proclaim your love in word and deed.

Today we also pray for the many people in our hearts and on our minds this morning as we silently name them before you. (silence)

We pray for many and for many things and while we do not know how you will answer we have confidence that you are with us.

God, you are in our midst, renew us in your love.

Song: I, the Lord of sea and sky (592)

Sending out with God’s blessing

May the lord bless you and keep you make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the lord lift up his countenance on you and give you his peace. Amen.

Response: God to enfold you

Music postlude


Numbers in brackets after a song/hymn indicate that it is from the 1997 Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Those and other songs are being used in accordance with the specifications of Dayspring’s licensing with One Licence (3095377) and CLC (A735555).

The Rev. Brad Childs retains the copyright (© 2023) on all original material in this service. As far as Brad Childs is aware, all of the material that has not been attributed to others is his own creation or is in the public domain. Unacknowledged use of copyrighted material is unintentional and will be corrected immediately upon notification being received.

Posted in Recent Sermons.